The food at Tiki Loco is a smash hit: 4.5 stars on Yelp, 4.9 stars on Google, 5 out of 5 on Facebook. The taco-chomping, smoothie-sipping people have cast their favorable judgements. Could it be the same seven people voting on each forum? Perhaps. But I don’t have time to further explore the possibility. Also, it wouldn’t matter, anyway, because I agree with these results. The food at Tiki Loco is good.
The vegan restaurant from Oliver Peck, owner of Elm Street Tattoo and judge on reality TV show Ink Master, is located in the old Zini’s space on Elm Street in Deep Ellum. I’m not going to sit here and lie to you about how I never went to Zini’s after an evening of hardy alcohol consumption. The place served a purpose. It filled a late-night grease and carbohydrate void, that for many years, couldn’t be sated elsewhere. But with the re-re-revitalization of Deep Ellum came new restaurants with shinier offerings aimed at those whose appetites surge during the witching hour. And, so, after 20 years in Deep Ellum, Zini’s closed.
So sad. Moving on now.
A few things about Tiki Loco: the restaurant is casual, they serve coffee and smoothies and vegan food. They do not serve alcohol, but they do offer shaved ice.
“One of Oliver’s absolute favorite desserts is shaved ice,” says Audra Cabral, who runs the kitchen. “Anywhere he can possibly get one in the world, he will seek it out and get one. Whenever we decided to take on this venture, he was like: ‘we’re definitely having shaved ice.'”
They use Ralph’s SnowBalls, which is 100 percent pure cane sugar. They also top the ice with coconut cream.
As for the tacos and salad bowls: “All of the protein that we use is soy-based. There’s no gluten in it,” says Cabral. “We use a small company called LS Natural based out of Louisiana. It’s real basic. There’s not a whole lot of ingredients. It’s literally soy and seasonings for the most part. There’s nothing crazy, no fillers, no nothing.”
Cabral makes all of the seasonings and condiments from scratch herself. (The exception being the barbecue sauce, which is whipped up by a friend.) “I’ve created a few recipes to mimic the Hawaiian poké bowls, that kind of style. And for the tacos, we just start with a standard blanket of protein. Then we take it and we season it based on what the customer prefers.” Styles include Hawaiian (pineapple pico, green onion, and cilantro), Citrus Chipotle (onion, celery, cilantro), Ryno’s BBQ (celery, roasted sunflower seeds), and Sweet Heat (green onions, roasted sunflower seeds).
As for the coffee: “We franchised out White Rock Coffee, which is a coffeehouse that we definitely love,” says Cabral. “They roast all their own coffee beans, and they actually are very involved in everything that they do, which is something that we really appreciate. We decided to try to merge with them or try to figure out how we wanted to go about working with them, and they were all so excited at the possibility. We are technically their first franchise.”
Smoothies and fresh-pressed juices are also a staple.
“I don’t put any kind of raw sugar in the smoothies. It’ll just be like agave or stevia, or just a natural sweetener of the fruit,” she says. Her favorite smoothie is the carrot cake. “It literally tastes like cake.”
Tiki Loco is open daily from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m., and until midnight on Friday and Saturday. Check out the full menu here.